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Scrapbook: Hair! Flow it, Show it, Test It

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March 31, 2011

Hair! Flow it, Show it, Test It


When President Obama in his most recent State of the Union address mentioned "winning the future," he was thinking of energy, innovation, and investment. But one component of our future is just as crucial: the health of our families and kids.

Coal-fired power plants pumps dozens of tons of mercury every year into the air. This pernicious toxin ends up in the water, our food, and in our bodies. At least one out of twelve, and as many as one out of six American women have enough mercury in her body to put a baby at risk, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (pdf).

With coal companies lobbying for even looser standards, now's a good time for answers on our mercury levels. And the answers are in the hair.

That's why the Sierra Club have been organizing hair testing events that will run through April. Earlier this month at a Sierra Club gathering in Philadelphia, all walks of life showed up to get tested and talk about mercury pollution. 



All walks of life showed up -- from toddlers to seniors. Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune (pictured) also was at the Philadelphia event.

"As mothers, we should speak up about the need to reduce the amount of mercury pollution being put into our environment, which threatens our health and that of our children and future children," Gretchen Dahlkemper-Alfonso said at the event.

The mercury testing campaign has seen early success, reaching national audiences. Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign Director Mary Anne Hitt, who is a new mom, appeared on Good Morning America earlier this month to demonstrate the hair testing process. Watch the clip and notice how the GMA host is taken aback when he learns that his personal mercury level is well beyond the EPA's recommendation.


Other events were held last week:

 · On March 23, in Dearborn, Michigan, the Sierra Club partnered with the Dearborn Sustainability Coalition for a successful mercury hair testing event, as part of a monthly sustainability roundtable discussion series.  The local newspaper quoted the Sierra Club organizer Michelle Martinez saying, "fish is a healthy way for people to get necessary vitamins and minerals like omega-3 fatty acids, but too much fish can have negative effects on your body. The good news is we can protect our families and the Great Lakes by curbing toxic mercury pollution, and the EPA can help by enacting protections for life-threatening mercury and other air pollution."

· On March 24, in Lexington, Kentucky, 24 people had their hair tested at a downtown salon, including a reporter from the Lexington Herald newspaper. The paper also published a fantastic Op-Ed warning moms and expectant mothers about the dangers of mercury, the day before, by Sierra Club organizer Lauren McGrath, who is training to become a doula birthing assistant. The stylists at the Hive Salon were excited to partner with the Sierra Club.

· On March 24, in Oklahoma City, the Sierra Club partnered with the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority to hold a mercury hair testing event on the University of Oklahoma campus.  It was a fun day and with hit our goal of collecting 25 hair samples from Boomer Sooner students.  The UO student newspaper wrote about the event.

Hair testing events are being held in at least a dozen other places around the country, including Asheville, NC, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Tampa Bay. Testing events will be happening through April,  but you can retrieve your own testing kit by clicking here. Here's a student from Miami Unversity in Ohio getting tested while perusing information on mercury. 

Miami Univ. OH girls testing

And last week in Concord, New Hampshire, about 30 people, including 20 women and seven children, showed up for testing. Samples are sent to a lab at the University of Georgia. It's takes about a month to get results.

New Hampshire kid

For info on getting tested, click here. You'll also find helpful details on safe and sustainable seafood and real stories from people who are living with mercury pollution.

(Philadelphia photos by Lawson Legate.)


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